Life in Omaha (in Scottsdale)

daily existence away from chicago

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Thursday, July 27, 2006

Good Bye for Now

Regular readers of LiO(iS) should note that we've corrected a grievous error regarding a local Scottsdale civic group. The Scottsdale Jaycees are not a French-hating organization after all.

The exchange between me and the president of the Scottsdale Jaycees--perfectly civil, I should point out--has caused me to reconsider the nature of the blog. I never had any concerns about putting my full name on this blog. I assumed I would be perfectly willing to back up anything I wrote, and I certainly would not publish anything compromising or private.

However, I never intended for the blog to be a public representation of myself or my family. It was always meant as an extended letter home, not as a public platform for my ideas. But with my name on the byline, as it were, and Blogger being a completely public forum, it has become that. LiO(iS) is now untenable in its current form.

Hence, Life in Omaha (in Scottsdale) will cease publication with this entry.

I will be creating a new blog in the near future, which will be written anonymously. Those of you interested can email me, and I will happily give you the new address. The content will still be the same--erratic postings, pictures of the kid, rantings that will still be only mildly amusing--but these will lack the signature at the bottom. As soon as I come up with a good psuedonym, I'll be up and running. Until then,

Ciao, au revoir and good bye.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Tickle those Ivories

Tickle those Ivories
Originally uploaded by shermans.

Hello Mesa!

Hello Mesa!
Originally uploaded by shermans.

An Intimate Moment with the Audience

An Intimate Moment with the Audience
Originally uploaded by shermans.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Happy 4th you French Bastards

UPDATE: The President of the Scottsdale Jaycees informs me that the Jaycees themselves were not responsible for the signs. The editors of LiO(iS) apologize for the error. In the future, we're likely to be as careless, but we'll try to do better.

Since I tarred them with such a careless brush, I feel honor bound to point out that we had a good time at the event and for the record, we don't even like fireworks that much, as my parents will attest. We were very happy that the event was put on, can't fault them too much for the bad taste in music, ate three of their hotdogs, and were at least partially responsible for two of the watermelon seeds floating around. The Scottsdale Jaycees do many wonderful things in the area, and they certainly deserve praise for what they've done. We here at LiO(iS) salute them and look forward to participating and supporting them whenever we can.

Our holiday wore us out. In the morning, Judy went running and I went for a ride in the hills. We don't know what Ciela did, but she was pretty sweaty when we got back. Then it was showers and relaxation while watching Germany v Italy. After that, on to the bikes and a ride over to the pool. Ciela and Judy splashed around. I swam 800m before sinking, and we all floated like jellyfish.

After we tired of swimming, we put on presentable clothes (although, I must say I look very fit in my new speedo 3/4 swim pants--they look more like biking shorts than the traditional speedo, and they do show off the Hermanson derriere quite nicely), and went to Chapparal Park's "Old Fashioned Fourth of July Celebration." They coined the name out of desperation, I think, because they didn't set off any fireworks.

But here's what I want to write about. All around the event, they (the Scottsdale Jaycees, I believe) had placed little patriotic trivia signs. Each sign had two questions, one for adults and one for kids. They were rather innocuous: "What president is on the penny?"; "Name the five branches of the armed service."; "Who wrote the Gettysburg Address?" and so forth.

And this one:

"Name one of the nations the USA fought during World War II."

Go ahead and think of an answer. I'll give you a few moments.

Okay, you probably, like me, guessed one of the three original Axis powers: Germany, Japan, or Italy. Probably in that order. But in case you were a little light in your history facts, they provided a hint:

"The Eiffel Tower"

Judy and I looked at each other.

"What the $%&*?!" was my eloquent thought.

Now, technically, they are right, I suppose. France, in a manner of speaking, did collaborate with Germany, but calling France one of our enemies in World War II smacks of historical revisionism, and certainly out of place in the extremely reductive genre of paperboard sign trivia contests on the Fourth of July. It ignores Charles de Gualle, the Free French Forces, and the fact that the US recognized Vichy France as the legitimate government of France--not our proudest moment.

I stood there for a minute, amidst the smoldering hot dogs, the seeds spit from watermelon full mouths, the bad music floating over the sound system (Toby Keith's "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue", a horrible piece of jingoistic and cliche-ridden country pablum completely appropos for the scene) and could just imagine some bitter, arrogant PERSON WHO IS NOT A JAYCEE AND WE REITERATE THAT THE JAYCEES ARE GOOD PEOPLE, smoldering at the indignities thrust upon this country by war protestors, the ACLU, Democrats, environmentalists, homosexuals, coloreds, jews and and Kennedys. He may not be able to swipe at all of them, but goddamn, he was going to get the French. Pass the Freedom Fries, Martha, I'll show them cheese-eaters. Your wine and brie would be beer and sausages if it weren't for good ole Uncle Sam. Take that froggy. And he prints out the delicious morsel of reactionary bile.

The irony, of course, is that the French were our key allies during the Revolutionary War, of which--and I'm sure you are way ahead of me here--this particular holiday celebrates. Were it not for the French, our baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and lemonade would be cricket, fish and chips, and mushy peas. How much would you enjoy your spotted dick and kidney pie, you Limbaugh-loving ignoramus?

This last part I apparently shouted out, much to the confusion and embarassment of Judy. Ciela thought it was pretty funny, though, and ran around saying "spotted dick" to everyone at the festival.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Mass-transit Op-Ed

The Scottsdale Tribune published my first Op-Ed piece over the weekend. I had sent it in on Monday, and they responded right away, saying they were considering it and could I provide them with a photo. Then nothing for five days. They even ran a letter to the editor on the same topic. I had assumed they had decided not to run it. Then Saturday morning, as I got out of the shower, Judy yelled up that my picture was on the front page. They had given me a "refer" as my friend in the business calls it. A page one blurb about my commentary on the editorial page. In addition to my picture, they also ran a 3x4 picture of traffic above the piece. The whole thing was pretty cool, although my picture makes me look like a doofus who can't afford a haircut.

Here's the piece. The Tribune, unfortunately, doesn't put commentaries on their website. Just official editorials.

In Monday’s Tribune, Tom Patterson offered a paean to the highways that ignores the limited and deprived life that comes from a city dependent upon cars. Mr. Patterson argues that private ownership of cars gives us “privacy, mobility and autonomy,” but he doesn’t tell us that such benefits are not available to all. Children under the driving age, some of the elderly, and those who cannot afford a car are left behind. Those of us who would prefer other options—walking, biking or light rail—are out of luck. We must forfeit time and money to ever longer commutes on ever more congested roads.

Children, especially, are harmed by such a community. They are confined to a miniscule world of rec rooms, backyards, and for the fortunate ones, a nearby playground. They are completely dependent upon adults for any entry into the larger world. Such dependency perpetuates a state of adolescence until magically, at the age of sixteen, they are expected to become independent citizens. It is no surprise that such wrenching change is not always gracefully managed. Parents suffer as well, reduced to chauffer status for a sizeable portion of the day. And lest we forget, our widespread suburbs force us into paying for a mass transit system that runs only twice a day and is limited to children—school busses.

The sprawling communities created by building more highways lead to a spiritually deprived and economically wasteful city environment. Time sacrificed to commuting leaves us absent time to spend with friends and family, absent time for visiting the library, absent time for exercising, playing the piano, reading, or writing letters. Worse, such sprawl eats at the social fabric that holds our communities together. It makes it difficult to meet neighbors and it restricts our options for civic engagements such as attending council meetings, volunteering for political parties, or even merely participating in clubs or sports. Mass transit along with a more dense urban fabric can return this time to us, enriching our lives.

Patterson does make a slight nod to environmental and safety concerns, noting that cars are becoming cleaner and safer. Yet despite improvements, cars still are a major source of pollution and tens of thousands die every year in auto accidents compared to a scant few who die in mass transit accidents. And Mr. Patterson’s claim that more highways will reduce congestion shows a remarkable blindness to history. New roads always come with new traffic, and without an alternative, we are doomed to be forever behind the curve.

Advocates of mass transit are not taking away cars. Rather, they are offering the valley options and, in the long run, the only viable way of alleviating congestion on our roadways. Mr. Patterson, employing a tired anti-intellectualism, claims that environmentalists, academics and local media—“elitists” he calls them—are lecturing the residents of the valley. But it is Mr. Patterson who claims to know what the people want. It is he who would take away our freedom to choose and imprison all of us in small steel cages.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

City Life

City Life
Originally uploaded by shermans.

Ciela stands in the middle of the vast urban fabric we created for her cars and trucks: a more simple SimCity. She began with the cars and trucks, but soon grew weary of the punishing grind of play. On her knees, supplicant to the demands of the 1986 Aerostar, hobbling herself so that it might run, she finally gave up and stood upright. She liked to walk the streets after dark, alone with her thoughts. A solitary saxaphone wailed in the night while the misty rain settled around her shoulders, building and building until a single trickle would slip down her arm. At the turnabout near 8th, she met Two Nickles. She told him about the fireman, his failure and then collapse at the Mercantile. Two Nickles was sympathetic, but could do nothing.

"What's done is done, kid. Larry was a good man, but he didn't have it."

"That's bullshit," she said. She knew the swearing wasn't good. It revealed too much of her emotions, and it wasn't allowed in the house. She'd tried to cut back, but like the gin and the cigarettes, it was a part of her. "That's bullshit and you know it. He didn't lose it because of some weakness, some crack in his mortar. He was set up. The Chinese girl. The young one. She sunk him like a leaky boat."

Two Nickles wasn't buying it. "Look, kid. I know you liked the fireman. We all did. Like I said, he as a good man, but he was burning up, inside and out. If it wasn't the Chinese girl, it would have been the cop or the train conductor or the token black kid. He was going down."

They walked over to the plastic tree. The monkey was loud tonight, screeching of love and loss and the hidden terrors of some ancient jungle lost long ago. Ciela pushed the swing hanging from the branch. It was light, almost without substance.

"I loved the fireman," she said, "but he was too good for me."

Maybe so, thought Two Nickles, but he didn't say it. "He was too good for all of us," he said, and she offered up a rueful smile.

He looked at her, pushing the red plastic swing, her bare shoulders white in the moonlight. She was so small, even though she towered over these streets. Beyond her, he could see the turnabout, the dead end at the piano, and past that the fields and the golf course and finally the 101 stretching out into the desert. This world would burn her alive if she let it. Not as fast as the fireman, but slowly and inevitably, she would succumb to the heat. The fireman was gone, and that meant no one and nothing else could stop the heat.

The rain had stopped some time ago, and despite the darkness, they both could feel the temperature building.

"Let's go, kid," Two Nickles said.

"Yeah. Let's get out of here," she said. They headed toward the kitchen where there were milk and crackers and maybe, just maybe, some quiet and a nap under the circling fans.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

The Evolution of a Joke

A few months ago, I mentioned Ciela's latest joke. Last night, Ciela showed the gift of a true writer by revising and updating her material.

Take small, green plastic fork.
Place fork on head.
Say, "fork-hat."

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Open Letter to My Inept Representative

To the Honorable J. D. Hayworth:

The Scottsdale Tribune reported this morning that you are circulating a petition to revoke the press credentials of the New York Times in response to their stories regarding various surveillance programs orchestrated by the Bush administration.

I find this action reprehensible. In a free and democratic society the press play a vital role. They ensure the actions of the government are transparent and honorable. One of our greatest architects of this country, Thomas Jefferson, valued the press even above the various branches of government. In 1787, he wrote that:

"The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter."

The last few years have shown a remarkable lack of oversight by the legislative branch. You and your fellow congressmen have abdicated your responsibility as a check on the executive branch. Without the free press, this administration, with a nod of approval from Congress, would eagerly violate and revoke our civil rights. Thankfully, the New York Times and other media outlets continue to demand accountability in the absence of a functioning legislative branch.

Your actions to censor one of our best papers show an incredible lack of understanding of democracy. Our district is ill served by such an ignorant and dangerous reaction.


Scott Hermanson

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